The Power of Letting Go

The Power of Letting Go

In a month where spring cleaning is often the focus, what are some things we need to let go? What are the emotions, thoughts, feelings are we holding onto that aren’t serving us? 

Often emotions that are weighing us down come in the form of shame and regret – close cousins of the same family to be sure. But what are they, exactly? Simply, regret is wishing things were different than the way they are and shame is the resulting feeling of humiliation. But more than that, “Regret is a negative emotion that hinges on counterfactual thinking. Counterfactual thinking essentially means that we look back and concoct imaginary scenarios to convince ourselves things could be better” (Social Psychologist, Dr. Neal Roese / Self.com). 

This shame and regret and the corresponding thinking begs the question: Would things really be better? Can we absolutely know that? If the answer is no (as it likely is), how is it serving us to hold onto that belief?

In her work Loving What Is, Author Byron Katie encourages us to ask four questions when we are confronted with regretful beliefs:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do you react – how does it feel – when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without that thought? 

The next step in Katie’s “The Work” is to “Turn it around.” This process certainly requires some practice, but can be extremely effective in moving past these beliefs. Need an example? 

Regret Statement: I shouldn’t have ended that relationship.

Is it true? Yes, it feels true. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? No.

How does it feel when you believe that thought? It keeps me stuck in a situation; it makes me feel guilty and sad.

Who would you be without that thought? Someone who could open herself to new relationships and be free of old, toxic behaviors.

Turn it around: I should have ended that relationship because now I am open to more healthy connections that allow me to be a better person.

Learn more about Byron Katie’s “The Work” and this process here.

As we move further into spring there is a natural tendency to want to shed, to throw away, to remove extraneous items (both tangible and intangible) from our lives. If regret – and the shame that results from regretful beliefs are among those things you want to get rid of – check out some of the resources below. But remember too, regret is not always a bad thing; it can help us learn and grow as humans. It is toxic when we allow it to grow and remain.

Remember: As spiritual teacher and author Eckhart Tolle said: “Sometimes letting go is an act of far greater power than hanging on.” 

Resources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/understand-other-people/201704/letting-go-regrets

Loving What Is by Byron Katie

https://thriveworks.com/blog/how-to-forgive-yourself/

 

 

 

 

 

Self Care: The Whys and Hows

Self Care: The Whys and Hows

We’ve all heard the directions for the oxygen mask on the airplane, right? Before takeoff, the flight attendants remind you that you have to put your mask on before you help others with theirs. So it goes with the concept of self care: We have to help ourselves first, otherwise we can’t truly be of assistance to anyone else. 

But what happens when life happens? When parent guilt sets in because we feel we haven’t spent enough time with our kids? When we are experiencing grief, trauma, anxiety, or overwhelm?  Or – perhaps most commonly – when we are just “too busy?” 

More often than not, it seems that when life happens, self-care doesn’t. 

To define the term, self-care is taking care of ourselves, physically, emotionally and spiritually. And there is good reason to engage in self-care:  Research suggests that self-care can help us manage stress, increase our resilience, and even live longer.

Self care is also important in our relationships. Psychology Today notes that, “It’s essential that parents care for themselves…When parents “fill their own cups,” they have more patience, energy, and passion to spread to their families.” Likewise with other relationships in our lives. Practicing self-care can “minimize the effects of burnout, including depersonalization, emotional exhaustion, and stress perception.”

But how do you do self-care? See below for some practical ways to nurture yourself, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and be sure to check out the links at the bottom too for additional ideas.

Physical Health: The mind-body connection is an important one to consider. When the body feels good, the mind does too. Self care strategies to increase physical health include exercise, getting an adequate amount of sleep, and eating nutritious meals that feed both your body and your brain.

Mental Health: MBHA’s Holly Dunn says she takes care of her mental health by, “Bringing myself back into the present when my thoughts get too future focused/worried or past focused/regretful or ruminative, doing my best to refocus back to what is within my control when I am over-focusing on others/things that annoy me, and letting go of the illusion I have control over anyone/anything but myself.”

Spiritual Health: Care for yourself spiritually by journaling, practicing meditation, or praying. And don’t forget to practice kindness and compassion, especially with yourself. 

The flight attendants tell us in simple terms: your oxygen mask has to go on first. So take a deep breath and commit to your own self-care practice. Remember, the paradox of self care is that ultimately you are doing it for others.

*You can find more ideas for self-care on these websites:

https://www.marieclaire.co.uk/life/health-fitness/self-care-ideas-725076

https://www.womansday.com/health-fitness/wellness/g32619113/self-care-ideas/

https://wholefully.com/self-care-ideas/

 

 

 

New Beginnings

New Beginnings

by Holly Schweitzer Dunn, LISW
 

A new year often means new beginnings. While that may not look the same for each of us, any new beginning first requires taking an honest inventory.  Embarking on the journey of self-exploration can be scary, especially when it comes to taking a clear look at ourselves. In fact, one of the bravest things we can do is to look – truly look – at who we are. Perhaps even braver than that though is to look without judgment. 

As humans, we judge constantly. This is likely because our brains try to put things in an order: good, bad, or neutral, so the stimulus we are met with often falls into one of those categories. For a moment though, consider the possibility of exploring yourself with curiosity instead of judgement. Consider the power of the question versus the statement. Consider the power of self-acceptance.

When you begin the journey into the self, you will almost certainly be met with resistance, and the way this resistance manifests is often through shame or regret; the “shoulds” and “shouldn’t haves” tend to shape our perceptions, creating false narratives and judgment. The real challenge then, is to look at yourself with a sense of wonderment and curiosity. Be open to exploring the you that you are right now with the understanding that there is no good or bad. There is nothing you “should” be that you aren’t right now.

So, here is an invitation for a new beginning. It is an invitation to be curious and open to bravely starting the journey into self-discovery, the journey along a wild, wondrous road that only you can travel.

 

Talking with Kids During Collective Uncertainty

Talking with Kids During Collective Uncertainty

by Holly Schweitzer Dunn, LISW
 
By Holly Schweitzer Dunn, LISW
 
Another terribly confusing, scary crisis.  Watching a mob of angry people flood into a building that is a symbol of everything we take for granted- freedom, safety, personal opinion, free speech, cooperation, working for the greater good- in our democratic society glued me to my tv and phone.  I permitted my children extra video game time knowing they were wearing headsets and interacting in all their tween glory with their friends, unaware of yet another trauma unfolding while I tried to make dinner, reading and re-reading the recipe, the details and steps not able to hold together in my mind.  I wanted them to be unaware, at least until I could wrap my brain around what was happening and how to explain it to them.
 
Just as we were all beginning to feel a little hopeful that the Covid vaccine would turn life back to normal we were subjected, again, to fear and uncertainty. This time it was at the Capitol Building. Over this past week, many parents have asked the best way to address this with their children. Here are our recommendations:
 
1.  Talk to your kids about what happened.  They know more than you think they do and deserve to hear the facts from you.  Be sure to use developmentally appropriate language and detail.  A typical three year old does not have the emotional or mental capacity to understand the complexities of mob mentality and perception.  They do, however, understand that different people have different opinions and that everyone wants treated fairly and deserves to live in safety.  They also understand that leaders and words have power.
 
2.  Share still images that allow your children to have accurate mental images.  Showing an entire video of the Capitol break-in is probably not appropriate for most school age children.  Allowing them to see images of broken windows, the women carrying to safety the case of electoral college votes, or protestors gathering outside the Capitol building can give them snapshots of the event that fill in the missing pieces they have from the uncertainty and from their lack of life experience.
 
3.  Turn off the radio, tv news, and news notifications on your phone.  As caregivers our first and most important responsibility is the safety and well being of our children.  Be in control of the information they see and hear in your home.  This is also a good time to review the filters and parent controls on your children’s cell phones, computers, tablets and other devices to ensure you are doing your best to safeguard against unwanted information inadvertently entering your home.
 
4.  Remember children need to process the information just as adults need.  In young children this looks like playing out their reality.  You may see your children re-enacting their interpretation of recent events.  You likely have already seen and heard your children play COVID-themed enactments.  Older children may talk about it with you or with their friends, draw, write, tweet or post on social media (if permitted) their thoughts, questions, and opinions.  This is normal and to be encouraged.
 
5.  Encourage action.  To regain a sense of empowerment after a trauma finding “doing steps” is key.  Helping your children find where their power lies and appropriately exerting it is not only a rebuilding step after a trauma, it is a life lesson they will carry into adulthood.  Doing steps can be simple:  drawing a picture that tells the story of what happened, saying a prayer or meditation to regain a sense of peace and center, playing outside and breathing in the cold air as a reminder of safety.  It can also include writing a letter to a congressperson, talking to someone with differing political views, thinking about someone you know and love who believes differently than you.